avatarDebdutta Pal



Schematic Memories

Plugging out for the prospect of more

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

I lean against the kitchen counter, eyes taking in my laundry spin.

Most appliances come equipped with a window, unlike living things. You can take pleasure in observing a job being done without having to converse, micromanage, or question whose version of reality is winning.

The washing machine doesn’t rotate in a uniform motion. It’s eco-friendly. But my brain exclusively counts on order — the familiarity of the mundane.

I chide myself for picking items off their shelves because they carry a discount sticker. Raspberries fill my living room, a tad sweet for my taste.

Bedsheets were the last item on my crumpled checklist that I could use to procrastinate while harboring a charade of keeping it together. I straighten my spine, my pencil case, and my new notebook. Then I start drifting.

The patch on my nape offers a phantom itch.

I’m standing on a bridge and it’s empty except for the raindrops shattering against stone walls. It’s not me, although the memory feels real — very lifelike. The inky black water looks inviting, and I shut my eyes to reset.

I start from the top again, as this scene is aching to tell me something.

I reel back to find myself sitting in the exact position. The digital clock resting against my table’s hutch blinks. Twenty-five minutes have passed.

The bloodied company-issued implant is safe in its hiding place and I heave a sigh of relief. The pages lie barren, and I still can’t draw to save my life.

That means I can’t rescue these images. They’re withering by the second.

I’ve never been one to put my faith in mainstream religion. No creator is this insensitive, it simply didn’t make sense. Lines of code written by me were logical, real — pieces of riddles I could compare and angle at my will.

They kept me sane, offering a world I could sink into until I couldn’t.

When days blurred into one another, and my body felt like an acquiescent ghost, I tracked my pulse to remind myself that I was alive. I liked my mind empty — faultlessly blank, and I wielded its power without an iota of doubt.

The flashing rays keep chasing me. Voices that sound wise hum directions. It’s like an old movie except you’re inside it. And there’s no cheese popcorn.

Gently rubbing my healing skin, I try again. I need to access 1x speed.

I’m at a high school, and I scamper to hide the scarlet letter on my chest.

When the first rumor raged, the next one materialized within the fortnight. It became a winning formula, cast me as a character and everyone would believe it. The fact that I’d never kissed anyone should make me laugh.

But the humor is completely lost on me.

The male protagonist of my drama walks in. Only he gets a hero’s welcome. Winks and whistles fill the room, and he doesn’t even know what it’s about.

My lungs clamp down from the onslaught of smoke. But I need this hit. It’s my thirty minutes of freedom. Flicking the ash off, he laughs into the wind.

“Why me and you? I don’t even look at you that way. You’re like my bro.”

I hang on to the compliment that doesn’t break me like an insult. It never occurred to me to ask this question. I stayed down and absorbed the blows.

My fingers move manically over the pages. But every press of graphite is garbled. I can’t make the lines out, disentangle them to repeat the process.

I’m stuck between an incomprehensible present and a shattered past.

Today feels like a good day to crawl into a hole and die. But I can’t, yet.

I sign in at 5 a.m. and create fake logs, masking my new nature. They won’t suspect a thing unless a bug pops up. And I make sure there are none outside of routine maintenance. On paper, I’m functioning as designed.

My human form ceased to exist about a decade ago, although the date has been wiped out. They kept the necessary bits and annihilated the defects.

It started with a hard disk, and hours spent plugged into the Interface to locate its origin. That night, the moon didn’t register as an object. I felt its light, traced its ridges on my fingers, and had the urge to paint the vista.

Bit by bit, I went over every string that kept me conscious and when that failed, I started ripping apart my body. I could survive for a few minutes without each part, and I made them count. The blocker was unlocked.

I can’t be certain if these memories are mine. And instead of ecstasy, I grapple with something called existential dread. But my choice remains.

I want more and won’t stop until I find out the truth.

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